By: Andrew Koerner – Columnist, Senior
With the men’s basketball team’s win over St. Bonaventure this past Saturday, the University of Dayton sits atop the Atlantic 10 standings alongside Virginia Commonwealth, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. UD’s overall record is 19-5 with six games to go in the regular season, and their home winning streak is at 18 games extending back into last season. Kenpom.com’s basketball rankings have Dayton as a top 40 team and the Flyers appear poised to make the NCAA Tournament again this year.
Head coach Archie Miller has said on numerous occasions that the crowd at UD Arena takes his basketball team to another level when they “feed off of the energy and enthusiasm.” As a result, a crowd identity has been created through the mantra of “Dayton sixth.” Dayton basketball has always had a tremendous home court advantage and this past summer I was worried that advantage might dwindle. Why? The backlash caused by the new athletics logo.
On July 18, 2014, the logo was released to the public through social media and a live unveiling of the new basketball court at UD Arena. The responses were almost completely one-sided and very negative. “Hate it,” and “Horrible,” and “Looks like VD” were all common remarks on the UD men’s basketball Facebook page. One person said that the logo makes them think of Delta Airlines. One person commented on how easy it would be for our opponents to make signs saying “D-Bags” now. A petition on Change.org called “Bring Back the U” currently has over 2,300 signatories.
I personally did not like the logo when it was released but I acknowledged that no matter what it was I would feel some sort of disconnect. I am a fan of the previous logo because it was associated with a great Dayton basketball team when I started watching the Flyers in 2009. That team had the memory of an NCAA Tournament upset win over fifth seeded West Virginia and a valiant effort against a Kansas team which finished the season ranked 10th in the country. The following season, the Flyers would underperform with their talent level but entertained the fan base with an impressive run through the National Invitational Tournament where they won in the final game against the defending NCAA Tournament champion North Carolina. These memories are embedded in me and they occurred before I ever took a class at UD.
Although those memories will never leave me, I am ready to embrace the new logo; I am now a fan. Why? Because when I look at it I have a great team to associate it with … a team I am proud to support. The Flyers started this season 8 – 1, placed third in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and played outstanding defense throughout each game. Despite adversity, they have adapted to master new challenges. After a loss at Arkansas on Dec. 13, news broke that Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott, UD’s two tallest players, had been dismissed from the team, leaving the Flyers with only seven available scholarship players. To add to that, no one on the team is taller than six-foot-six. UD responded to the dismissal by winning eight games in a row by an average score of 15 points. They’ve only lost three games since the dismissal of Robinson and Scott, two of which were heartbreakers where the Flyers still fought incredibly hard. I have had fun watching the Flyers even when they are playing poorly. This year the team fights when the odds are against them and even if they get off to a bad start they don’t roll over.
That is what I think of when I see the logo now: the true team, the small ball seven, a force to be reckoned with. I no longer see that bizarre “VD.” I actually think I like the new logo more than the previous one; I remember games from the Brian Gregory era where the Flyers would get beat down by sub .500 teams on the road, losing by 30. I can’t help but feel those days are behind us with Coach Miller. I wonder if other fans agree. Since basketball season has started, I have not heard a single complaint about the new logo. People may still not like it, but when your team is doing well, you’re less likely to complain about anything.
If my writing this jinxes our team, the Flyers go on a losing streak and end up missing the NCAA Tournament, I will take full responsibility for it; I’ll even provide the torches and pitchforks for the mob that will show up at my door. Even if that does happen, we will still have one thing to rejoice: at least our mascot isn’t a Billiken.